Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Emergent Church and a Christian Worldview

Reading Robert Webber’s “The Younger Evangelical,” I was shocked to discover that there is a wave of young evangelical out there who rail against the notion of Christianity as a “worldview.” (pages 164-164 explicitly) Their argument is that looking at the Faith as a worldview narrows it down to a philosophy and not something that is lived out. Quoted in the book, Charles Moore says that seeing Christianity as a worldview, “abstracts reason from history and pits the existing, choosing subject against the object. It reduces Christianity to metaphysics.”

Against this view is Nancy Pearcey’s “Total Truth.” This book is a long and well developed argument that a well understood Christian worldview is a matter of life as well as thought. In fact, to reduce Christianity to “merely” a metaphysic is to do damage to the intent of the Christian faith. To properly understand Christianity is to understand it as a worldview (a metanarrative, if you will) which permeates each and every part of the believer’s life.

The first quote in “The Younger Evangelical” highlights what I think is a disturbing and sad trend in many portions of the emergent church movement. Some of the leaders of the movement don’t understand their own faith well enough to know what ideas like “Christian worldview” really mean. The leader quoted has succumbed to a poor and inadequate philosophy which probably promised him the ability to “go beyond” Modernism and Enlightenment thinking. The consequence, though, of such postmodern balderdash is not a deeper and better understanding of the faith, but a worse.

“Worldview” is one of those concepts you can’t get away from. It is a little like Truth. Although a relativist may say something like, “there are no truths,” if that statement is supposed to be true, then it collapses under its own weight. Likewise to argue that Christianity should not be understood as a worldview is to cause your own view to collapse under its own weight. That statement reveals a worldview (call it whatever you like-metanarrative, heuristic philosophy, etc.) in which Christianity is not a metanarrative. What is most likely happening in the case quoted above is that Moore has either not properly understood either the concept of “worldview” or the reality that his faith is a worldview. The first possibility is sad-the second is deadly.

As for a more specific thought on exactly what Moore wrote in the quote above, what is wrong with a Christian metaphysic? If he believes God really exists, he has a metaphysical point of view. If he believes God only exists for those who believe in Him, he has a metaphysical point of view. And so on. Additionally, it has always been the case, from the Apostle Paul on, that having right knowledge about a Christian metaphysic changed the way people behaved. Take for instance Colossians chapter 3. The whole chapter is an argument for a change of lifestyle as a result of a newly held Christian metaphysic. If a Christian wants to degrade things such as a Christian metaphysic, it will result in biting the hand that feeds them. The very thing which justifies their system of behavior is a system of metaphysics, metaethics, epistemology, etc.

Concerning the subject/object distinction brought up in the quote, is it simply a false dichotomy in a well understood Christian worldview. Living out our faith unifies the subject (disciple) and the object (creator), and is the goal of the Christian worldview.

I wrote a post a while ago about the aftertaste of postmodernism, and one of the issues I discussed was sloppy thinking. The student is like the master-if the master is a bad thinker, then the dutiful student will be as well. Postmodernism is a bad philosophy and pastors and church leaders who embrace it (to any degree) will be bad thinkers when it comes to serious matters.

Christianity is a worldview-there is no getting around it. The real issue is discipling believers to live it out in every aspect of their lives.

1 comment:

Pastor Erik said...

Hey...good stuff. Where are you pastoring?
You can check out my blog at www.kerux4oaks.blogspot.com and our fellowship at www.fouroaks.net

D.A. Carson has three messages re: the 'emerging' church (you can find it somewhere out there) and a book forth coming- 'conversant with the emergent'. He does a very good job of sizing up the movement and offering some important admonitions.